WASWI – Designing Fabric?

photo 1

Yesterday, Abby Glassenberg of WhileSheNaps delivered an eye-opening post of behind-the-scenes information about the money in fabric design in our industry. Please go read it… I’ll be waiting for you when you’re done. And a continued thank you to Abby for researching and writing such important posts.

I woke up in the wee hours this morning fretting about this, and here’s what I was fretting about: WE must stop agreeing to work for negative income. 

At Quilt Market, just two weeks ago, the result of the Quilting in America 2014 Survey was presented by F+W, A Content + eCommerce Company. The major data point is that Quilting is a $3.76 BILLION industry. Yes, BILLION. To be told that there’s almost $4B of cash floating around in Quiltdom, and then to read that there are fabric companies that effectively force their designers into penury via footing the entire bill of Quilt Market marketing obligations is… just… appalling. Abusive. Manipulative. Just plain WRONG.

And I lost count of how many times I heard during market “I don’t know who’s getting the $4B but it sure isn’t me.”

Look – this isn’t about the companies (fabric or otherwise) that take care of their people. This is about those that don’t. If you are so desperate to see your name on the selvedge that you will sign a questionable dotted line, then you will live by that questionable contract (and really, is the “fame” worth it?) But here’s the thing: because you are willing to sign, it tells the company that what they are offering is good enough. So the bar stays low for anyone coming behind you. It’s the same thing I argue about pricing handmade goods – if you are willing to give it up for the “work for free” price, then you are educating the customer that “work for free” is the going rate. Which screws us all, you included.

These companies are not going to offer you a better deal out of the goodness of their hearts, any more than a craft fair customer will double your asking price for the sake of good karma. We are not going to get better contracts unless we refuse to sign the bad ones. And my guess is that if enough of us pass on the bad contracts, and the company faces Quilt Market with little new stuff to show, then they’ll get motivated to up their game.

photo 2

The quilting industry started its growth back when we began the fight for Equal Rights. Its initial population was founded on women who were brought up to be nice, and that pressure to be nice above all else, and especially above being business-savvy people, is still extreme. I know it can feel “not nice” to push back on a contract, especially when you’ve worked hard to achieve the offer of one. But a contract that screws you over isn’t one you (or our industry) deserves.

And in case you are reading this and thinking “I don’t design fabric so it doesn’t apply to me,” well, think again. If you knew which company treated their artists like this, would you buy from them? Would you encourage them to mistreat their people with your hard-earned money? I hope not…. many of us boycott several brands and chains for less.

We are, as always, in this together. If we demand better, we can achieve it for us all. If we take care of others as we rise, then we all rise. I believe we really can change our industry, but we really have to do it together. As Abby says at the end of her post “This kind of alliance can only happen when we speak up.”

So I’m speaking up. We truly Are $ew Worth It.

HDS Sew Worth It LOGO

BTW – Did you join my mailing list yet? Do it here. I’m dreaming up groovy exclusive stuff for you!

 

Advertisements

QUILT TALK Blog Hop Day 5 – WHITE – with Molli Sparkles

(Hi tour readers! A quick word…. the folks participating in this tour are busy and human, just like you and me, and so occasionally their posts don’t get put up in the wee hours while you are sleeping. Please be patient and kind about it… the posts will appear at some point, and if they don’t, I’ll make sure I post the pattern at the end so you don’t miss out. ~Thank you!)

It’s day 5 of the Quilt Talk book tour, and we’re heading across the water (and equator) to hang out with Molli Sparkles! Molli is an American ex-pat, living Down Under, and making lovely, modern quilts. Molli is in a totally different space and time dimension, so hang tight if his post isn’t up this morning!

White Bucket

Molli and I became comrades-in-arms over We Are $ew Worth It – and Molli took it and ran hard with this legendary post about making a stunner of a WHITE quilt, and doing a bunch of detailed math to show its true value. I can’t thank Molli enough for carrying the torch for this work. I chose WHITE for him as it’s the closest color to SPARKLE that I could come up with, as well as being a nod to the WHITE quilt and its story.

I also wanted to include Molli (and next week, Sarah Fielke) as they both reach the Aussie quilting peeps that have been so kind to me. For both of their giveaways, I will be mailing a hard copy, real paper-and-ink book to the winners in Australia. I know that our quilting sisters and brothers outside the US often get to win electronic books, but I’m more than chuffed to have you along for the tour, and want to make sure you get to hold a book. I can vouch for how fun it is to have one in your hands!

Please hop over to Molli to see what hi-jinx he’s up to!

Here’s a reminder of the tour and COLOR bucket schedule:

***************

BTW – Did you join my mailing list yet? Do it here. I’m dreaming up groovy exclusive stuff for you!

 

 

 

WASWI Resources – Snappy Comebacks!

To make hand-crafted things is to be the target of blunt questions and statements that disparage what it takes to make art, and leave you smarting a bit. I’m not always fast on the draw with my snappy comebacks, but over the years I’ve amassed a few good ones.

HDS Sew Worth It RESOURCES

Take note, and rehearse a few with your sewing pals to have them at the ready! I usually deliver the lines with a slightly patient and patronizing air (awww… they don’t get it… bless their hearts!) and always with a sense of humor :-)

And please add yours to the comments so that we are all armed the next time someone says “I could make that.”

“My grandma could make that.”

So could mine, but it wouldn’t have the same unique character to it.

“Art is easy.”

Tell that to Michelangelo!

“Everybody can sew.”

You mean like everybody can cook?

“It’s easy to sew… why should I pay for that?”

It’s easy to cook too, but you still eat at restaurants, yes?

“How long did that take?”

About 20 hours, and about 25 years to get good at making it in 20 hours.

“I could buy one at Walmart.”

You could buy a cheap imitation at Walmart, but the quality would be missing.

“I could buy one at Target.”

But so can everyone else. This is a one of a kind thing… you’ll have the only one.

“My sister/mother/auntie/bestie quilts too.”

How cool! Then you KNOW what kind of time and skill it takes to make a quilt.

“How do you make this?”

I’m happy to give you private lessons. I charge $$ an hour. Let me get you my card…

“No really, just tell me how you do this so I can go make one.”

No really, I’ve invested a lot in my mastery… you should invest in yours.

“My kid could make that.”

Chuckle… we parents always think our kids are prodigies, don’t we?

“Can I get a deal if I buy two?”

No, it doesn’t take any less of my resources to make the second one.

“Can I get a quilt as a donation? It will be great exposure for you.”

Did you know you can die of exposure?

“Can you sew this project for me? It will be great exposure for you.”

If only my landlord accepted exposure in lieu of rent!

“Can I have it for a really super low price because I’m doing it for Amazing Worthy Cause?”

How great that Amazing Worthy Cause has your support! If you like my product that much, I would be honored to have your support too!

“People who sew charge too much.”

It’s a specialized skill, just like carpentry or fixing cars, and you pay way more for those.

“Quilting isn’t a necessity, like plumbing is when you’re toilet isn’t working.”

But you hire a plumber at full price when you’re doing a snazzy remodel, which isn’t a necessity either.

“There’s no way I’d pay that.”

Then you’re not my customer. Have a great day!

 

Go here for more info about We Are $ew Worth It

*********

BTW – Did you join my mailing list yet? Do it here. I’m dreaming up groovy exclusive stuff for you!

WASWI – Molli Breaks it Down

I wrote the original We Are $ew Worth It post almost two years ago, and have been thrilled to see it take laps around the world. When it went viral, it reached our cousins in Australia, and one cuz in particular took it and ran, wearing high heels!

Through the course of emails about WASWI, Molli Sparkles and I have become friends, and today, Molli has given us a great and transparent look at his No Value Does Not Equal Free quilt, a stunning tour de force in shades of white. Read it HERE.

Image from Molli Sparkles, used with "Hell yeah!" permission!

Image from Molli Sparkles, used with “Hell yeah!” permission!

I encourage you to read to the end of the post – there are many important and subtle details in there, and Molli gives us the reasons for every number in the projects sheets. He also generously gives you a version of them to use for yourself (a super beefed up version of my original simple time/materials sheets).

Perhaps the most important sentence in the post is this:

“For those in the USA, where quilting is nearly a four billion dollar industry, I created a more localised costing sheet for you. As previously mentioned, I altered the fabric cost to $10.00 / yard, and the labour rate to $14.00 / hour based on the most recently documented US median wage.”

We help generate $4 BILLION for this industry, and I know many of us struggle to charge $10 an hour.

You are worth so much more than that. We all are. We ARE $ew Worth It.

HDS Sew Worth It LOGO

Thank you, Molli!

*********

BTW – Did you join my mailing list yet? Do it here. I’m dreaming up groovy exclusive stuff for you!

WASWI: Quilters Newsletter Magazine talks about Value

The conversation about what are quilts are worth has reached one of the big guns, Quilters Newsletter Magazine! The Aug/Sept 2014 issue includes a very sharp article titled “What’s Your Quilt Worth?” It begins on page 38.

photo 2

Gigi Khalsa interviewed several industry professionals, including yours truly, and put together a well informed article stuffed with facts, opinions, and “behind the green curtain” advice.

  • Nancy Henry talks about the business arc of her Etsy shop, nhquiltarts.
  • Samantha Harvey of Sami’s Quilts and Crafts discusses the formulae she uses rigorously to price quilts. “Quilters who undercharge make it harder for anyone to get a fair price.” Woman after my own heart!
  • Katie Ringo of Katie’s Quilting Corner gives strong commission advice. She also says “Educate your buying public.” Right on.
  • Patricia L. Cummings of Quilter’s Muse Publications reminds us that the price of a quilt should include the wear and tear on our tools and machines, and the power to run them.
  • Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry discusses the price-per-square foot formula she uses (similar to a lot of fine art painters). She also talks about correct pricing when a gallery carries your work. Never undercut your gallery!
  • LUKE Haynes also uses a pricing formula, but he talks about his long toil in the trenches to build a body of work at prices that cover a living wage.
  • Carol Ann Waugh of aBuzz Gallery discusses the difficult job of competing with cheaply made imports.
  • And I talk, as always, about my belief that if we all work on this together, we will all benefit from it.

photo

That’s me, in the opening paragraph! I’m the closer too!

From the core of my being, I believe that We Are $ew Worth It. And I hope you’ll join me in that.

BTW – Did you join my mailing list yet? Do it here. I’m dreaming up groovy exclusive stuff for you!

 

When are you “an artist”?

Can I just say it thrills me to no end to see that the We Are $ew Worth It posts continue to be sent all around the world? Thank you! I really think we can change this game….

Fireworks, by my sweet son, from a long time ago.

Fireworks, by my sweet son, from a long time ago.

Yesterday, Kay B left a comment on a WASWI post, and asked this: “My question is when do you consider yourself an “artist”? If you develop your own pattern? When you properly following someone else’s pattern? How about hand quilted vs. long arm quilted? I have seen many things listed for sale online that are lower quality that are charging more than for more quality crafted items that it is no wonder the general public is afraid to pay the asking price for hand crafted items. How does an appraiser determine a value?”

Before I tackle the big one about considering one’s self an artist, I’ll answer the easier one about appraisals.

Certified Quilt Appraisers have been rigorously trained through programs such as this one in the US run by AQS, the American Quilter’s Society. (Note that this is good place to look if you need to hire an appraiser, too.) Armed with that training, an appraiser can determine where a quilt fits in the current canon of knowledge, and value them accordingly. What factors matter? Many factors, including craftsmanship, ubiquity/rarity, geography/history, and the renown of the maker. For instance, I had a few quilts appraised some years ago, then shortly after, was published in some magazines and earned a ribbon at a national show. My appraiser informed me that the publishings and the ribbon both added to my value, and that my appraisals would now be higher because of them. Thus it follows that the quilts made by the acknowledged masters and superstars of our industry will appraise higher than the version of them that less famous people might make. Sort of like a doodle by Picasso is worth more than the one done by the sweetest toddler in your family (even if you can’t really tell the difference). And yes – it doesn’t really account for the emotional attachment you have for the toddler’s work!

So with this in mind, when do you get to say you’re an artist? My opinion is this:

You get to say you’re an artist the first time you pick up a pencil, or crayon, or needle, or hammer, or lump of dirt and try to make something out of it. WAIT, I hear you say…. that misshapen lump of clay that came home from 2nd grade that was supposed to be a pumpkin is not ART. No, it might not be. There is a rather extensive establishment that loves to wrangle with the question of “Is it ART?” and they like to be the keepers of that conversation, so I’m going to just let them wrangle it. And I’m guessing they will say no, the “pumpkin” is not art, unless of course Picasso made it… and… and… you get my drift.

Wile E Coyote and Road Runner. Lines by Chuck Jones, colors by my sweet son.

Wile E Coyote and Road Runner. Lines by Chuck Jones, colors by my sweet son.

I’m talking about YOU. In my mind, if you are a MAKER, you are an ARTIST. The intention to make with your hands is an ARTISTIC intention, regardless of what you then make. I know that for some it’s a huge struggle to claim the title because I struggled too. I’ve never been that great at drawing, and so when I drew misshapen things as a child I was told I was no good at art. But I’ve since decided that my elementary school teacher didn’t really have the authority to tell me what I am. I successfully earned an AA in art by working hard at learning to draw (I had an excellent teacher, but I’m still middling at it). I got my BA in Sculpture because constructing stuff makes more sense to me. I got my MFA in Fiber because by then I had figured out that playing with fiber is my superpower. And I still hate to draw. And that just no longer matters.

I don’t think you need to be making original patterns to call yourself an artist. I don’t think it matters if you quilt by hand, machine or check (but I do think you have to acknowledge the long arm artist when you hire one). I think you just need to MAKE. Make what interests you, make for profit, make for love, but just MAKE.

As for the pricing differences one sees online? Those appraisal factors are in play, but so are the factors of what the market will bear and the self confidence of the maker. An honest pricing calculates the time and materials and takes into account the artist’s skill. Some people don’t charge enough to cover that. Others do. The wide range in price vs. quality in the handcrafted world is no different than in other industries… for instance there are well made good-value cars and expensive rattletraps out there. That’s the joy of a free market. As a buyer, you get to decide what to exchange your moola for.

But back to the ARTIST conversation before I leave you. You’ll see me talking about “your studio” and some of you might think “right… that would be my dining room table.” I refer to you and your making this way because, to me, you ARE an artist. The space doesn’t matter. The size of the machine doesn’t matter. The fact that you might do it with kiddos underfoot or cats in your lap doesn’t matter. There isn’t a magic door you have to go through to be an artist. You just have to MAKE.

So let’s go do some of that! MAKE, MAKE, MAKE…

photo 4

BTW – Did you join my mailing list yet? Do it here. I’m dreaming up groovy exclusive stuff for you!

 

 

Making a Quick Buck

Well! It seems that my last post about quilting patterns touched a couple of nerves… it seems that any of us who have designed quilt patterns got a bit prickly about the comment that we do it to “make a quick buck.” (insert hysterical laughter).

Bags on Mannequin

So I thought I would give you a peek behind the green curtain on how my Chunky Wee Bag pattern got designed. I wrote this up for Generation Q Magazine last year for their Sept/Oct issue. While it’s definitely a humorous look at the monologue in my head, please don’t miss how many times I made and tested the bag before I let it out of the house. Seriously.

Here goes…

The 17th Time’s the Charm – OR – What it Took to Make the Chunky Wee Bag Pattern (said in my best Rocky and Bullwinkle voice-over)

It started out with a need (necessity being the mother of invention and all that): I had a date with my son and Disneyland. I needed a small bag that would go across my body, and carry just a wallet, glasses, phone and a snack. My usual handbag is part backpack, and had previously proven hard to manage in the cramped confines of a rollercoaster, so I thought I would just whip up something else. I’m a miss-fancy-pants-pattern-designer, right? Right. Read on for a peek into the mind of a (mad)woman on a mission to make the perfect bag.

Studio. Hmmm… what size bag? Let’s start with 8” x 8” shall we? Love that square! Love that balance! Couple inches deep. Flap. No zippers! Definitely need pockets inside to keep stuff separate. (What does the Bagginses have in its pocketses?) A ring… to clip keys onto. Where’s the calculator? Graph paper! Sketch, draw, redraw, recalculate.

OK, I think I have it, wait… adjust that a smidge… strap should be narrower? Yes. Fabric! ORANGE! The robot fabric! (Bad Robot!) Aha! Needs something. Grey? Yes… but something else. (Garlic? Chocolate?) Ooh, the retro one with the boomerangs! Yeah, baby! Groovy, baby! (But with better teeth!)

Can I do it all with black thread? Yessss. New needle, walking foot… who put felt under my bobbin again? Drop of oil. Water in the iron? OK!

Cut, fuse, sew, pin, wrangle, sew. Ooops. Flap’s in backwards. Bah! Pout. Rip, rip, rip. Pin. Check. Really? Sigh. Re-pin. Re-check. Sew. Yes! Post picture on FB. Awww, lots of likes :-)

DSC_9968

Disneyland! Wheeee! Works perfectly. Yay for pulling it out of my hat yesterday! Except for the flap needs Velcro. Why, thank you, yes, I made it! The strap could be a smidge wider. But still… success!

Home. I wanna use my cute wee bag! Too small. Can’t get the sketchbook in there. Huh. The tissues. The little box of emergency medical stuff that all mothers MUST carry even when their kid lives in a different state now. (I checked the handbook, it’s in there. Trust me). Pens. Nail file. Lip balm. Emergency chocolate.

Duh. Make it bigger.

Studio. What about 9” x 10”? Draw, calculate, funky Halloween fabric, cut, sew. Hmm. Don’t like the proportion much. Cute but… meh. Yes, you can have it.

DSC_9971 = 2nd bag Halloween

What about deeper? Chunky deep. Like four inches deep? Oooh. Need a base board to hold that bottom out square. And how to get from a 4” side to a thinner strap?

How to get from a 4” side to a thinner strap??

Really. How to get from a 4” side to a thinner strap???

Toss and turn. Wee hours… EUREKA! That’s how to do it! Throw on clothes, grab tea, OMG MY HAIR. But no one’s gonna see me today. I hope. Baseball cap. Car keys. Studio!

Template plastic, more robot fabric, cut, sew. Hold breath. Turn inside-out. Iron. YES! (By George I Think She’s Got IT!) Topstitch that thing and get it into the bag. LOVE IT. (I know).

DSC_9970

Move stuff into the bag. Fits! HAPPY!

Inside the bag

Pattern? No… didn’t make a pattern for it yet. Yes, I should. Well, sure I’ll make you one while I write it. Have to test it anyway. And one for you. Oh, you want it bigger. That tall? To carry your iPad. Got it. Tall version coming up. Let’s try 8” x 10”.

Studio. Draw, calculate, cut, sew. Two sizes… officially a Pattern In Development. Flap’s funny on the tall one. Make it again. Try magnetic closures. Make it again. Ok, I’ll make you one. But I’m still working out this flap, OK?

Taller bag

Email blast to the Tester Peeps! Make a bag! Two sizes! Come on down!

Sorry for the hand sketches. Let me know if the writing makes sense. Yes? Argh, you’re right… I have no idea what I meant by that, obviously needed more chocolate. Yep, that sure is a better way of putting it. Thank you. That step should go first? Got it. Is the velcro in the right place? You think the flap’s fine? How are we doing? Ready to turn the bag? Yay! You made it! Pix for the blog!! THANK YOU!!

IMG_2852

Still not sure about that taller bag. Flap still looks funny.

Rinse and repeat with second group of Tester Peeps. Wow, these gals totally saved my patootie. AGAIN. Whew.

IMG_2895

Flap still looks funny. Harrumph. Back to the drawing board. Rules of design proportion? Rule of thirds? The Golden Rule? Shorten the flap? Yep, that helped. Still looks funny. The bag’s too tall. But it has to be 10” for the (#@*$) iPad. Too tall! Can’t shorten it. Waitaminute! I can make it wider!

Try 10” x 10”. Echino airplanes and scooters! Sweet fabric, but why didn’t they make it in ORANGE. Because not everyone luuurvvvess ORANGE, Sam. (Fools!) More for me! (Wicked laughter!) Cut, sew, flip, and BINGO – doesn’t look funny anymore. Love that square! Love that balance! Oh, you’d like one, but in linen. Sure. I need to test it again.

10 in square

It’s Karen’s birthday and I could make her one of these. Except for the small one is too big for her – she likes them wee (she’s a Scot!) Make it smaller. SMALLER? Are you NUTS? Hmmm… 6” x 6” could work. If I move that and squeeze this and keep it SQUARE, and how the hell am I supposed to get my hand through there and yes, it’s so cute! Perfect. THREE sizes for the pattern now. Oh, you’d like one? Sure. I’m still testing it. No, it has to stay SQUARE. Trust me.

6 inch

A pattern? Of course it’s a pattern. It will be out soon… I just need to run one more test!

**********************

BTW – Did you join my mailing list yet? Do it here. I’m dreaming up groovy exclusive stuff for you!

References:

  • What does it have in its pocketses? – Gollum, in The Hobbit
  • Bad Robot – J.J. Abrams’ production company (and on the end of every episode of Lost)
  • Yeah, baby! Groovy, baby! (But with better teeth!) – Austin Powers
  • By George I Think She’s Got It! – My Fair Lady
  • Love it. I know – (“I love you.” “I know.”) Princess Leia and Han Solo, in The Empire Strikes Back
  • Fools! – Mr. T from the A-Team

Chunky Wee Bag - COVER - 72dpiRGB